Pastor's Blog

Sometimes I think that my best messages are the ones I preach in the car on the way home from church!  So my blog gives me the opportunity to follow up with some afterthoughts.  It’s all the things I wish I would have said on Sunday morning.  Other times, it’s just things I’m still processing that have nothing to do with my last message.

So thanks for reading my ramblings.  I hope you get something from them!


Wayne Okamoto


How to Pick a President

January 11, 2024

Article first printed in Christianity Today, 

June 6, 2008

By Daniel Taylor & Mark McCloskey

To access the article, click here:

How to Pick a President

A Sad Ending

August 17, 2023

Last week I saw a teaser for the local sports news which read, “It’s not how you begin, but how you finish.”  In one of the baseball games where the Cubs played the Mets, the Cubs went out to a very quick lead, scoring twice in the first two innings.  However, in the end they lost the game 3-4.

I think the same can be said about our spiritual journeys—how we finish is much more important than how we begin.  Unfortunately, Scripture records a sad example of that truth.

As you know, Solomon wrote most of the Old Testament book of Proverbs.  1 Kings 4:29-34 tells us:

29 God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore. 30 Solomon’s wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the people of the East, and greater than all the wisdom of Egypt. 31 He was wiser than anyone else….  And his fame spread to all the surrounding nations. 32 He spoke three thousand proverbs and his songs numbered a thousand and five…. 34 From all nations people came to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom.

Solomon was unrivaled in his wisdom.  He wrote powerfully and insightfully about the fear of the Lord being the beginning, i.e., the foundation for knowledge and wisdom.

And yet, Solomon had a weakness for women.  He had 700 wives and 300 concubines.  Many of his wives were foreigners who worshipped foreign gods.  Eventually they turned his heart away from being faithful to God.  1 Kings 11 gives a sad commentary of the end of Solomon’s life:

9 The Lord became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. 10 Although he had forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the Lord’s command.

As a result, the kingdom of Israel split into the northern and southern kingdom, leaving his son to lead only two of the twelve tribes of Israel.  In addition, his son Rehoboam followed his footsteps and not only acted foolishly, but he also did not follow the Lord wholeheartedly.  This is especially tragic as we read over in over, how Solomon addressed so many of his Proverbs to his son writing repeatedly, “Listen, my son….”

This is a sobering reminder that knowledge of the Word of God is not the same thing as a life fully surrendered to God and a heart that is transformed by His Word.  We can have great insights into Scripture and know many things about its truths, but in the end, if our heart is not surrendered and transformed, our knowledge is in vain.

So let me encourage you to read and study the book of Proverbs throughout the year.  But be sure to allow God’s Word to penetrate your hearts and bear fruit in your life.  Run the race faithfully to the end and finish well, because it’s not how you begin, but how you finish that counts!

New Name Written Down in Glory

July 26, 2023

Disney does not always get it right.  However, the old movie Lion King illustrates a great Biblical truth: How we view ourselves will have a profound impact on what we do in life.

I’ve been spiritually mentoring one of the men at Hope.  We have been doing a short study on our new identity in Christ.  Someone has said that the two most important things about us is how we view God (including the Son of God, Jesus Christ) and how we view ourselves.  Our beliefs in those two realms will affect everything we think and do.

The apostle Paul knew that truth.  In a number of his letters, he first begins by talking about who God is, what He has done for us through His Son, Jesus Christ, and who we are as His new creation.  In light of those truths, he then goes on to share what are the practical applications as he exhorts us with a number of ethical imperatives.   In theology, when it comes to our sanctification (becoming like Christ), we say that doctrinal indicatives always precede ethical imperatives.  In other words, belief always precedes obedience.  As we trust God for our new identity, that new mindset will result in us living lives in obedience to the Lordship of Christ.

This past weekend, I heard a song by Charity Gayle entitled “
New Name Written Down in Glory.”  It really moved me as it captures the joy of this new identity in Christ!  Let me encourage you to listen to it.  It will help these glorious theological truths to become embedded into your soul!  However, before you click on the link, first read below how Eugene Peterson paraphrases Ephesians 1 in the Message. The fresh paraphrase will hopefully help you to not just gloss over these familiar verses which describe our new position in Christ.

Hakuna matata!

3-6 How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.

7-10 Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.

11-12 It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.

13-14 It’s in Christ that you, once you heard the truth and believed it (this Message of your salvation), found yourselves home free—signed, sealed, and delivered by the Holy Spirit. This down payment from God is the first installment on what’s coming, a reminder that we’ll get everything God has planned for us, a praising and glorious life.

15-19 That’s why, when I heard of the solid trust you have in the Master Jesus and your outpouring of love to all the followers of Jesus, I couldn’t stop thanking God for you—every time I prayed, I’d think of you and give thanks. But I do more than thank. I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength!

20-23 All this energy issues from Christ: God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from his rule. And not just for the time being, but forever. He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything. At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.

Spiritual Fraud

July 19, 2023

Email scams.  Credit card fraud.  Phishing text messages.  They are all geared to steal our information and ultimately to steal our money.  So it’s crucial that we not be fooled by these deceitful ploys. But there are also even more dangerous schemes of which we must be aware.

Last week I took a 3-day personal retreat in WI.  It was a good time to spend extended time alone with Jesus.  I sensed the Lord met with me.  However, upon returning home, there was a number of little things that seemed to tempt me to get frustrated or annoyed.  So on Monday, as I was running, I was talking to the Lord about it, and immediately John 10:10 came to mind:

10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

The thief is none other than Satan himself.  He wants to destroy God’s kingdom and kill people with an eternal death.  We see this clearly in his interaction with Adam and Eve in Genesis.  But Satan also wants to steal away any good work that the Spirit of God does in our lives.

I see this happening in the lives of unbelievers and new believers.  God begins a good work in them, but the enemy tries to steal away any progress they make in either coming to faith or in taking further steps to get grounded in Christ.  Jesus illustrated this in the parable of the sower and the soils (Mark 4:1-8, 13-20).

But the enemy wants to do the same with us; he wants to steal away any good work that the Spirit of God does in our hearts.  That is why intimate times with Jesus or significant times when we make various commitments to the Lord are often followed by spiritual battle.

So what do we do during those times?

One of the chief ways the enemy tries to steal away God’s work in us is to plant lies in our hearts.  Sometimes those lies come as simple, subtle thoughts (John 8:44); sometimes the enemy will stir up our circumstances to play against the weakness of our flesh; other times, he will just turn up the heat of the luring culture of the world around us to dull our passion for Jesus (1 John 2:15-17).  His chief strategy is to deceive us in buying into his lies.

Therefore, we must counter those lies with God’s truth.  Jesus said in John 8:32—

32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

So beware!  The enemy prowls about like a roaring lion seeking to devour you with his lies.  Therefore, when those lies pop up in your mind, delete them just like those dangerous emails and texts.  And then guard your heart by replacing those lies with the truth of God’s Word!
PS- Tomorrow I’ll send you a follow-up blog on this. 

So stay tuned!

Flirting With Danger Pt. 2

July 1, 2023

Yesterday, we talked about: #1- Recognize that sexual sin is foolhardy and short-sighted and #2- Stay far away from temptation

Here are 3 other suggestions:

#3 Stay connected to God & His Word

2 Timothy 2:22 says,

22 Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

It’s not enough to just flee from lust, you also need to pursue righteousness; and the epitome of righteousness is Jesus Himself!  The closer you remain to Jesus, the further your desires will be to sin. So, stay close to Jesus by spending time with Him and in God’s Word every day.

#4- Be filled with the Holy Spirit
Do you remember during our series on the Last Supper Discourses, how Jesus said we cannot overcome our fleshly desires by simply applying will-power?

One of the great promises and blessings of the new covenant is the gift of the Holy Spirit. God wants to transform you from the inside out.  He also wants to give you His power to overcome fleshly desires.

Paul says in Romans 8:9-13

9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. 12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

So when faced with temptation, ask the Spirit of God to empower you to flee the snares and traps of the flesh.  He will not let you down!  He will empower you and give you victory if you trust Him.

#5 Establish accountability with others
The Christian life was never meant to be lived alone!  Victory comes in numbers.  So, you need a group of friends who you can trust and who you can be honest with your struggle.  So, join a small group!  Men, you can start by joining us for our Saturday morning men’s breakfast.

In addition, there a number of us who have Covenant Eyes loaded on our computers and cell phones. Covenant Eyes is not a filtering app, rather it’s a reporting app. You indicate on the app the people you want to receive your accountability report. If it senses you have clicked on something questionable, it sends a report to flag those people and tells them to follow up with you. I can’t tell you the number of times I have been tempted to click on a link when the thought of having to give an account of why I clicked on it kept me from doing it!

If you want more info on Covenant Eyes, just text or email me & I can tell you how you can sign up for it.  It’s only about $24 per year—a small price to pay for instant accountability!  It’s not an end all to keep you from internet porn, but it can really help you.
There you go!  5 simple ways to help you avoid be thrown up in the air while flirting with a 2,000-pound bison of sexual sin!

Flirting With Danger Pt. 1

June 30, 2023

One of the on-going challenges which park rangers experience at Yellowstone is the tendency for people to underestimate the dangers of bison.  As a result, they take foolish risks in taking photos and selfies, only to have these huge beasts charge and hurt them.

Likewise, we can underestimate the dangers of sexual sin.  Instead of staying as far from the temptation as we can, we can take unwise risks, only to fall prey to the lure of sexual sin, particularly pornography.

Last Sunday we talked about sexual sin from the book of Proverbs.  At the end, I mentioned 5 things which can help in this area, but b/c of time, I only briefly mentioned them.  So here are some additional thoughts on how to avoid falling prey to sexual sin.  I’ll cover the first 2 today and the others tomorrow.

#1- Recognize that sexual sin is foolhardy and short-sighted

Last Sunday we talked extensively about the multiple warnings in Proverbs regarding the serious consequences of sexual sin.  We also talked about how we tend to fail to look far enough into the future when faced with sexual temptation.  If you missed last Sunday’s message, let me encourage you to listen to it
on our website or watch it on YouTube.

#2- Stay far away from temptation

Over & over, Solomon reminds his son, stay far away from the adulteress.  For instance, Proverbs 5:7-10 says:

7 Now then, my sons, listen to me;
    do not turn aside from what I say.
8 Keep to a path far from her,
    do not go near the door of her house,
9 lest you lose your honor to others
    and your dignity to one who is cruel,
10 lest strangers feast on your wealth
    and your toil enrich the house of another.

Temptation is inevitable.  But succumbing to temptation is not.  Martin Luther once said, “You cannot keep birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair!”

I’ve mentioned before about a trucking company that was hiring truck drivers.  During the interview they asked three applicants, “If you were driving your rig near a cliff, how close can you drive that rig without falling off the edge?”

The first driver responded, “I can get within a yard of that edge!”  The second driver responded, “That’s nothing. I can get within a foot!”  The third driver said, “I don’t know how close I could get.  All I know is that if I were driving close to a cliff, I’d stay as far away as possible!”  He’s the guy who got the job!
Friends—when it comes to temptation—stay as far away as possible!  For instance, when a tantalizing pic comes up on your phone or laptop, don’t think to yourself, “How close can I come without stumbling?”  Instead, flee immediately!

1 Corinthians 10:13 says,

13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

God will provide an escape route, but you must take it.  But also realize that when it comes to sexual sin, that escape route is only open for a relatively short time.  The person who hangs around gets hung!

That’s the first 2, tomorrow we will cover the last 3.

Doubting in the Darkness

June 21, 2023

This morning I was reading Psalm 95.  Vv. 6-11 says:
6 Come, let us bow down in worship,
    let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
7 for he is our God
    and we are the people of his pasture,
    the flock under his care.
Today, if only you would hear his voice,
8 “Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah,
    as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness,
9 where your ancestors tested me;
    they tried me, though they had seen what I did.
10 For forty years I was angry with that generation;
    I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray,
    and they have not known my ways.’
11 So I declared on oath in my anger,
    ‘They shall never enter my rest.’”

The mention of Meribah and Massah is a reference to Exodus 17:1-7.  The nation of Israel had just seen God deliver them from Egypt, first through all the miraculous plagues and then through the spectacular parting of the Red Sea.  But soon afterwards, they grumbled against Moses because of a lack of water.  So, God provided water for them.  Then they grumbled because they had nothing to eat.  So, God provided manna for them.

But then they moved on to the Desert of Sin.  In spite of witnessing God’s miraculous deliverance and experiencing His supernatural provisions, they once again grumbled about not having water as if Moses (and, by implication, God Himself) had led them into the desert to die of thirst.  God told Moses to strike the rock and out poured water.  But why did God bring water from the rock?  Perhaps it is because a rock is the last place from which one would expect water.  Or perhaps it was to show that God, who Moses would later refer to as “the Rock,” was really the Source of living water for them.  Moses then named the place Massah (meaning “testing”) and Meribah (meaning “quarreling”) because the Israelites quarreled with Moses and tested the Lord.

In Psalm 95, God warns us not to harden our hearts like the Israelites did.

Next to these verses I have written in the margin, “4/22/2021- Do not doubt your calling or what God wants to do through Hope. It is more significant than you think!”

If you remember, in April of 2021 we were still meeting at Liberty Church.  Our Saturday evening worship attendance was continuing to dwindle—and so did my faith!  But God used this Psalm and other verses to remind me to hang on to His promises and trust In Him for what He wanted to accomplish through Hope.  In essence, God was saying to me, “Don’t doubt in darkness what I have shown you in the light!”  Sure enough, one year later, God provided our Grayslake facility and today, once again, we have a positive outlook as we look into the future.

Perhaps you are going through a dark time today where you are tempted to doubt God.  Remember all the ways that the Lord, your Maker, has shown you His faithfulness—how God has cared for you as His precious possession, as a beloved sheep of His flock under His tender, watchful care (vv.6-7).  God has not led you all those times in the past only to abandon you today in the desert wilderness.  Trust in Him to provide for you His living waters of refreshment.  Trust Him that He will, if need be, split open the rock and meet your needs.  Listen to His voice and claim His promises by faith.  Don’t doubt in darkness what God has already shown you in the light!

Finally, I encourage you to join with me in believing great things for our little church.  His plans for Hope are so much more significant than you and I imagine!  They may look very different than what we might envision, but let’s together believe Him for those things—whatever they may be!

Compassion vs Judgment

June 8, 2023

Yesterday, I was taking a day with the Lord at the Hastings Lake Forest Preserve.  A teenage girl who was on her phone walked by and sat down at a picnic table under the same pavilion where I had been camping out. She was somewhat loud and was having a conflict with someone, presumably a family member. I could tell by her conversation that she came from a broken home.  She was obviously angry, and her words were interspersed with colorful language.

As the conversation dragged on, it bothered me that she was not more considerate of me.  I thought to myself, “Doesn’t this girl realize that the reason why I am here is to get away from noise like this? I don’t need to hear about all of her family conflicts!”  I finally booted up my computer, plugged in my ear buds, and began listening to some background music.  After about a half an hour, she got up and left while still talking on her phone.  I was relieved.

It wasn’t until later in the day that I began thinking about her again.  She was obviously a troubled youth. In fact, a convicting thought occurred to me, “How do you know if she is one of those troubled youths who might consider ending her life?”  I also thought, “What would Jesus had done in that situation?”  I had to repent for my lack of compassion. I prayed for her and prayed that God would bring someone else in her life who was more compassionate and understanding than myself, who would share the gospel with her.

This morning I happened to be reading in Ephesians 2:1-10

1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

As I read that passage, God again convicted me that instead of acting out of compassion, I sat in judgment of that troubled youth. Do I live in the constant awareness that the only thing that separates me from those who don’t know the Lord is God’s grace—His unmerited favor?  Do I recognize, as Paul did, that I too once “followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.”  That I too, “lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath”?  Do I live in humility and gratitude with that perspective, or are those perspectives just theological truths to which I intellectually assent, while oblivious to the same hypocritical pride of which the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ days were blind and unaware?

If we are going to reach people for Christ, particularly this next generation Z, we must develop an understanding and compassion for them. In fact, this is true of all people with whom we come in contact. If we are going to touch lives, we must live out the gospel by walking in humility and treating others with grace. 

I prayed again for that troubled teenager—asking that she would not take her life and that she would come to find hope and life in Jesus Christ.  I also asked that God would make me more sensitive and compassionate, and less judgmental.

Let me encourage you to pray the same.

Fulfilling Your Vows

May 31, 2023

Yesterday, during my time with the Lord I was reading Psalm 66.  The psalmist is reflecting back on difficult times from which the Lord has rescued him.  He writes:
8 Praise our God, all peoples,
    let the sound of his praise be heard;
9 he has preserved our lives
    and kept our feet from slipping.
10 For you, God, tested us;
    you refined us like silver.
11 You brought us into prison
    and laid burdens on our backs.
12 You let people ride over our heads;
    we went through fire and water,
    but you brought us to a place of abundance.
13 I will come to your temple with burnt offerings
    and fulfill my vows to you—
14 vows my lips promised and my mouth spoke
    when I was in trouble.
15 I will sacrifice fat animals to you
    and an offering of rams;
    I will offer bulls and goats.

The psalmist praises God for His deliverance and for bringing him into a place of abundance. But in vv. 9-12, he reflects back on those past trials and he sees God’s hand in them. He acknowledges that the trials were really God’s discipline/testing in order to refine him as silver is refined by fire. He even views the actions of his enemies as sovereignly allowed by God.  It’s a good reminder that nothing can touch us except that which our loving Father has permitted to come into our lives.

But I think vv. 13-14 reflects how many of us as believers can respond during times of difficulty. When we are going through a very difficult time, we can make vows to the Lord.  Those vows are not necessarily bad.  For instance, perhaps we are not good with money and we run into financial difficulties.  So we pray, “God, if you rescue me from this financial crises, I will learn to be more responsible in the way I spend my money. I will even give You the first-fruits of my labor.”  Or perhaps we are not walking closely with the Lord and we begin to face trials. We then recommit our lives to God during those difficult times.

But unfortunately, like the nation of Israel during the time of the Judges, we can be quick to turn to the Lord during those difficult times, but also too quick to return to our former way of life. In fact, if you read through the book of Judges, you will see this cyclical pattern: the nation of Israel strays; God raises up their enemies to discipline them; in their distress, God’s people cry out for deliverance; God raises up a judge to deliver them.  But then the people revert to their former ways and the cycle repeats itself.

So how can we avoid making the same mistake?  Think back during the last time you experienced hardship.  What was your perspective on life as you went before the Lord?  Did you make any commitments back then? Like the psalmist, return to those vows and recommit yourself to walking with Jesus. 

Go before the Lord and, just like the psalmist, proclaim to God—
13 I will come to your temple with burnt offerings
    and fulfill my vows to you—
14 vows my lips promised and my mouth spoke
    when I was in trouble.
15 I will sacrifice fat animals to you
    and an offering of rams;
    I will offer bulls and goats.

The Key to a Life Free of

Anxiety and Fear

May 24, 2023

Proverbs says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom.  So last Sunday we talked about the fear of the Lord. Today, there is a lot of questions and confusion about what it is and what it is not.  If you missed my message, I encourage you to listen to it on our webpage or watch it on our YouTube channel.

Let me again highlight two ironies in regards to the fear of the Lord:

First, those who have the fear of the Lord need not be afraid of God. The Bible never says that those who fear the Lord should be afraid of God nor fear His judgement. In fact, it is just the opposite.  Proverbs 14:26-27 says,

26 Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress,
    and for their children it will be a refuge.
27 The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life,
    turning a person from the snares of death.

However, for those who do not fear the Lord (referring primarily to unbelievers), they are the ones who should be afraid of God and should stand in fear of His final judgment.  So contrary to what we might think, the fear of the Lord is what removes being afraid of God!

Secondly, if we fear the Lord—i.e., if we truly reverence & adore God’s overwhelming, infinite holiness & majesty, we need not be afraid of anything! Proverbs 19:23 says,

23 The fear of the Lord leads to life;
    then one rests content, untouched by trouble.

In short, the fear of the Lord is living a surrendered life in light of who God is.  So ironically, if you want to live a life free of anxiety and fear, then fear the Lord!

Samson and the Will of God

April 16, 2023

This morning while I read the story of Samson, one verse in particular seemed to jump out at me.  God had told Samson’s parents that He was calling their son to be a Nazarite. This meant that Samson was meant to live with a special emphasis of holiness, i.e., a life set apart to God. But instead, Samson strayed from his calling.


The first indication of his waywardness was his desire to marry a foreign Philistine woman.  This was strictly forbidden by God, because God knew that unbelieving wives could turn the hearts of their husbands away from Him to worship foreign idols.  But Samson disobeyed God and instead told his father, “Get her for me, for she is right in my eyes.”  (btw- this also points to the danger of our youth who can overemphasize the attraction of outward appearance and far underestimate the importance of someone’s inner heart.)


But the writer of Judges then makes this curious comment in Judges 14:4:
4 His parents did not know that this was from the Lord, who was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines; for at that time they were ruling over Israel.

How could the writer of Judges say that “this was from the Lord” when clearly, Samson was disobeying God? Was his desire to marry this unbelieving foreigner from God or not?

Take a look at the above pic. Do you remember two Sundays ago in our series “Discerning God’s Will,” we talked about this diagram? We said there is God’s universal moral will which includes all His commandments.  But then there is also His sovereign will, which means that God is in control of everything—even man’s sin.


The statement in Judges 14:4 is not a statement from the perspective of God’s desired moral will, rather it is a statement of His sovereign will.  God is so sovereign that He can even use our sin for His glory and purposes. Another prime example of this is Judas. God in His sovereignty foretold that Judas would betray Jesus.  So we know that even though Judas sinned (Jesus even said that it would be better for the man who betrays him that he would never have been born), yet God sovereignly used Judas’ sin to accomplish His purpose.


This is a great encouragement to us as we look at the dark world around us. Whether it be Russia’s continued assault on Ukraine, or the civil war in Sudan, or the demise of the Christian moorings in our own country, it is a comfort to know that God is in control.  But it also serves as a reassuring encouragement to Christian parents who, in spite of their best efforts to raise their children as committed believers, see their children stray from the Lord and even make heart-breaking decisions, disobeying the direct commandments of God. Never stop praying that God will turn their hearts back to Himself; but in the meantime, remember that even when your children disobey Him, God is still in control and can still use their disobedience for His glory. 


Now that is NOT to say that we should personally use this as an excuse for ourselves to disobey God.  Remember that Samson’s life story is a tragic one.  Unlike faithful martyrs who have died with a heart to follow the Lord even in His death, Samson died as a slave to his captors, with his eyes gouged out because of His disobedience.  Even his motive in dying was not to glorify God, but rather to selfishly obtain revenge against his enemies for the loss of his eyes. That is not the picture of a man whose life ends with God’s honoring commendation, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”  But again, just like Judas, even amidst Samson’s sin, God was still sovereign and used Samson’s death to glorify Himself.


So as you look at the world or at your loved ones who have strayed from the Lord, take heart—God is in control! But as you look at your own life, recommit yourself to a life of obedience. True joy and fulfillment in life is experienced when God is glorified in our obedience, not in spite of our disobedience.


Thoughts on Jesus' Prayers Regarding Glory

April 5, 2023

Last Sunday, we looked at Jesus’ high priestly prayer in John 17 where He prayed for His disciples before going to the cross.  As we noted, the words “glorify” and “glory” are repeated throughout the prayer.  To glorify means “to praise, honor, magnify, exalt, to clothe in splendor.”  Likewise, the word “glory” carries the meaning of “brightness, radiance, splendor, magnificence.”  It is often used in Scripture when talking about the manifestation of God’s character.

In John 17:1-5, Jesus prays:

 1 “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you… 4 I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.”

As we noted on Sunday, Jesus glorified the Father by fulfilling the mission which the Father had sent Him to accomplish.  And now the time has come for Jesus to return home to the Father, so He prays that the Father will glorify Him with the glory that He had before the world was created—a glory that we can only imagine!

But this exchange in glory is not just limited to the Father and Son.  There is a similar pattern as Jesus prays for us.  Jesus prays,

6 “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 8 For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. 9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them.”

How did the disciples glorify Jesus?  They glorified Him by believing in the words of Jesus and by obeying His commands.

But then Jesus also prays,

22 “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

In what sense has Jesus given them His glory?  First, Jesus manifested His character to His disciples.  In that way He has shown His glory to them.  In John 1:14, John writes, And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

But in addition, Jesus may be looking forward to the coming of His Spirit**.  In 2 Corinthians 3:18, Paul writes, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory.  For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”  Paul tells us that as we continue to spend time with Jesus, to grow in our relationship with Him and to walk in His Spirit, Jesus then causes His Spirit to transform us from the inside out so that we reflect His character.  In that sense we are transformed into His same image from glory to glory, i.e., we increasingly reflect His glory.  In this way, Jesus gives us His glory (John 17:22) and this transforming work will empower us to be one, just as He is one with the Father.

Thus, we have this repeated pattern where Jesus compares His relationship with the Father with our relationship with Him.  Just as the Father sent Him, so Jesus sends us.  Just as He and the Father are one, so He calls us to be one.  And just as there is an exchange of glory between the Father and Son, so too we have the privilege of receiving glory from Jesus as we give Him glory.  This of course does not mean we join Him in His deity, but rather it’s a reflection of the incredible privilege that Jesus has given us in pulling us into His inner circle and allowing us to experience His glory, albeit in a much lesser degree than the exchange between Him and the Father.

There is one more time in Jesus’ prayer that He mentions “glory.”  In John 17:24, Jesus prays,
“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.”

I’ve read this verse many times before, but somehow, I think I’ve glossed over something—perhaps you have as well.  Jesus not only looks forward to our homecoming, but He prays that we would see His glory, “the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.”  Once again, Jesus is referring to His deity—that He is One with the Father.  But His reference to “before the creation of the world” ties this request with v. 5, “And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.”  This seems very purposeful.  In other words, Jesus prays that the Father would glorify Him with the glory that He had before creation, and now He prays we will see that glory!  What will that be like to see and personally witness the glory which Jesus shared with the Father before creation was set into motion, when there was nothing else that existed but the triune Godhead?  We have no idea what that experience will be truly like (although perhaps we get a brief glimpse of that experience when John records seeing Jesus in His exalted state in Revelation 1).  However, I can guarantee you that it will be an indescribable, overwhelming experience of fear, joy, and exhilaration all at the same time!  It will be an adrenaline rush that no experience and no drug could ever give us in this current life!  It will be ecstasy of the highest order! 

In your darkest days, when you face trials that seem overwhelming, may this prayer and this truth keep your hearts filled with hope, courage, and a resolve to keep going!
**Note: Jesus looks into the future and says in v.18 that He has “sent them into the world.” He uses the past tense, even though the disciples technically were not sent out until after Christ’s resurrection.  Scholars call this a “prolepsis-- the representation or assumption of a future act or development as if presently existing or accomplished” (see also John 20:21-22).  So also, Jesus may be doing the same here in v.22.  He uses the past tense (“I have given them the glory”) even though His Spirit has yet to be poured out.

Faith Always Precedes Obedience

March 29, 2023

If you were at Hope two weeks ago, hopefully you will remember the diagram in the above pic.  It’s an explanation of John 15:9-11 where Jesus says:
9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

If we obey Jesus and live within the boundaries of His commands, we will abide in His love; in other words, we will remain and experience His love.  When we step out of the boundaries of His commands and consciously choose to disobey Him, we step out of His love.  Jesus still loves us, but we won’t experience His love as we live in disobedience.

In addition, Jesus says that He has told us these things that His joy may be in us and that our joy made be made full.  So, when we obey Jesus, He makes our joy full; but when we disobey His commands, our joy will ultimately not be full.

However, we also said that Scripture talks about the fleeting pleasures of sin.  Sin has its pleasures, but they are immediate and temporary.  The joy that Jesus wants to give us is a long-term, fulfilling joy.  Why choose to eat a cheap hamburger today, when God offers steak for a lifetime!

But that means if we are going to obey Jesus, we need to trust Him when He says that obedience will ultimately result in our long-term joy.  That is why for the believer, faith always precedes obedience.  We must trust that Jesus will fulfill His promise of lasting joy if we are to consistently obey Him.

In fact, when you think about it, Jesus ties His commands to His love.  That means that every command that God gives us is not only a by-product of His holy moral perfection, it’s also a by-product of His infinite love for us.  Every command He gives us is for our best.  And so every time we consciously obey God, we not only affirm that we trust His faithfulness in fulfilling His promise to give us lasting joy, but we also affirm that we trust in His love.  This is why our obedience glorifies God—it exalts the character of God.

Because faith always precedes obedience, the Christian life is not another self-help improvement plan which the world banners.  Rather obedience to God’s commands are really the results of our trust in God and His promises.

But lest we think that our faith is generated by self-effort, never forget the context in which Jesus gave us these verses.  Earlier in John 15 Jesus said that He is the vine and we are the branches. It is only when we abide in Him and He in us that we can bear much fruit.  As we mentioned during these past Sundays, Jesus is talking about our need to walk in the Spirit—to trust His Spirit to do His life-transforming work in our lives and for His Spirit to also use us to bear lasting fruit in His Kingdom by impacting others with the Gospel.

So every time you are faced with the choice of whether or not to obey God’s commands, simply ask the questions, “Do I trust Jesus’s love and His promise that if I obey Him, He will make my ultimate joy full?”  If your answer is affirmative, then ask the Spirit of God to empower you to act on your faith and bear His fruit through you.  He is faithful and will meet you in your time of need!
PS- But you may be wondering, what do I do when I blow it and disobey God?  Then lean on the promise of 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  Confess your sin, truly repent by turning from that sin, and then by faith, embrace the infinite love and forgiveness that God lavishes on you according to the riches His grace in Christ Jesus our Lord!

PPS- If you missed any of my last three messages, let me encourage you to listen to them.  They are all on Jesus’ teachings in the upper room regarding His promised Spirit.

Filled Up With the Right Fuel

March 22, 2023

I heard a humorous story of two nuns who were nurses who were traveling in their car when they ran out of gas.  Thankfully, they were in walking distance of a gas station.  However, they did not have a gas can, so instead they used the only thing in their car that would hold liquid—a steel bedpan.  They purchased the gas and as they were pouring the gas into their car, two men in a passing truck saw them.  One man exclaimed to the other, “Man, that is faith!”

No matter how much faith we have, if we don’t fill our cars with the right fuel, the car will not operate well.  Likewise, unless we are filled with the Spirit of Christ, we cannot live the Christian life in the way Christ had intended for us to live.

As many of you know, on Sunday mornings we have been studying Jesus’ teachings during the Last Supper.  One of His major emphases was about the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus promised He would send to His disciples after He ascended to the Father.  It is one of the most important truths to understand and apply in order to live a victorious, fruitful Christian life.  If you missed either of my last two messages on the Holy Spirit, I encourage you to listen to them on our website or watch them on our YouTube channel (
3/12/23- “The One Called Alongside Us” and 3/19/23- “Staying Connected to the Vine”).

When believers think of Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ), they tend to immediately think of evangelism and discipleship.  Yet what most people do not realize, is that Cru has historically had a huge emphasis on teaching people about the Spirit-filled life.  In fact, in an effort to help people understand what it means to walk in the Spirit, Cru produced a small booklet entitled “Satisfied.”  It’s a very brief summary of what it means to be filled with the Spirit.  It’s not a comprehensive exposition of this crucial truth, but it is a practical, short summary.  I mentioned about these booklets on Sunday but had only a limited number of copies.  However, I just found out they have an online version.  Let me encourage you to click the booklet below and read it.  It can serve as a great reminder of what we have been talking about these past two Sundays.

Have a great week and stay connected with the Vine through Christ’s Spirit!

What Evolution Teaches About Self-Identity

February 1, 2023

This past Sunday we talked about shepherding our children’s and grandchildren’s hearts.  If you missed the message, I encourage you to watch it on our Hope YouTube channel page or listen to it on our website.

In that message we talked about shepherding their hearts to see themselves as God sees them in Christ.  Even secular psychologists talk about the need to help our children and grandchildren develop a healthy self-image.  However, our school systems send contradictory messages when it comes to teaching a positive self-image.  How so?

Many of our educators will point to a very important proclamation in the Declaration of Independence which says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…”  When you think about it, this statement is at the core of our democracy.  It is why we stand against things like racism, bullying, and taking advantage of the poor.

This statement is also very reflective of Biblical truth.  Scripture says we were created by God.  It also says that because we are all created in His image, we are equal in God’s eyes.  In addition, Romans 1 tells us that creation itself speaks of the attributes of God, so there is a certain sense that this truth is self-evident.

However, our American education system would also teach evolution.  The entire basis of evolution is that mankind was not created or designed by a Supreme Being, but rather he is the outcome of evolution which is driven by two main factors: random mutations and natural selection.  Evolution teaches that in any given species, there are random mutations that occur which cause organisms in that species to be different.  Some of those mutations give certain organisms in that species an advantage to survive and thrive, while other mutations are disadvantageous.  Natural selection says that the genetic code of the organisms which have a better chance to survive and thrive have a greater chance of being passed down to their offspring, thus moving the process of evolution forward.

So you might ask, “So what’s the contradiction?”

Evolution specifically teaches that organisms in a given species are NOT created equal!  If they were all equal, the process of evolution would not take place.  In addition, evolution would teach that there are certain species that have evolved certain behaviors which help to ensure that the superior genetic code of certain organisms get passed down to their offspring.  For example, consider how male deer, elk, elephants, wolves, and lions and many other male animals compete with each other for the right to conjugate with females.

So evolution would say that all people are not “created” equal (actually, evolution would not say that people are created at all since the concept of creation involves a Supreme Being).  Evolution would teach that there are certain people who have superior strengths which give them an advantage to thrive in this current environment.  Thus, people like Adolf Hitler believed that allowing the strong to thrive and dominate the world (which of course he deemed as the Arian race) and eliminating the weak was actually helping mankind to move forward in the evolutionary process.  All to say, evolution contradicts that premise that “all men are created equal.”

But obviously, this reasoning is contradictory to what Scripture says.  As already mentioned, the Bible says in Genesis 1:27, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”  All men and women are not only created equal, we are fearfully and wonderfully made because we are created in the image of God.

In addition, for those of us who are Christ-followers, we have been given a new identity in Christ.  Like a sponge that is placed in water in which the sponge is both in the water and the water is in the sponge, so too, when we become Christians, we are both placed in Christ, while Christ also comes to live within us.  And because of what Christ has done for us through His death and resurrection, there are many things which are now true about us.  This includes being blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, being adopted into the family of God, being co-seated with Christ in the heavenly realms, etc.  In fact, last year we did an entire series talking about this new identity in Christ based on Ephesians 1-3 (I included a summary statement at the end of this blog— See “Appendix #2” below).

So the next time your child or grandchild asks, “Why do Christians make such a big deal about creation vs. evolution?”, use it as another opportunity to talk to them about their identity in Christ, as well as an opportunity to talk to them about the truthfulness of God’s Word!
Appendix #1: What about Theistic Evolution?
Some Christians think that theistic evolution is a viable position that combines a Biblical worldview with evolution.  They would propose that God used evolution to accomplish His purpose.  But theistic evolution is really an oxymoron—it is not a good understanding of evolution nor a good understanding of creation.  Evolution is based on random mutations.  Thus, if one introduces any outside influence which “guides” the process, it is no longer evolution.  Likewise, Scripture would say that natural selection was NOT the force that created life, but rather God’s purposeful design.
Appendix #2: The following is a summary confessional statement of our new identity in Christ based on Ephesians 1-3
As a child of God, set apart for Christ, I have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ.  God cherishes me so much that He chose me before the foundation of the world and adopted me into His holy family. (Eph 1:1-6)

I have been redeemed, forgiven from sin, and ransomed from the bondage of sin and death.  My worth is not determined by anything I have accomplished; rather my worth and significance is defined by what God has accomplished for me in Christ.  God treasures and values me so much that He was willing to pay the price of His own Son to purchase my redemption; that is what defines my worth. (Eph 1:7-10)

God views me as His inheritance—His chosen, treasured possession.  Therefore, God is working out all the details of my life according to His good and perfect will that I might be to the praise of His glory.  God has also sealed me with His Spirit, who has been given to me as a deposit, guaranteeing that I will receive the riches of His inheritance. (Eph 1:11-14)

God has created me to know Him, to fulfill His calling, to experience the riches of His glorious inheritance, and to live with His infinitely great power. (Eph 1:15-23)

I have been rescued from the bondage of the world, Satan, and my own flesh.  My salvation is a free gift of God’s grace through faith, not as a result of any good works of my own.  I am God’s wonderful workmanship, created to do good works, which God Himself will give me power to accomplish. (Eph 2:1-10)

God has raised me out of death into a new life in Jesus Christ.  Therefore, God views me as already seated with Christ in the heavenly realms.  My identity is not defined by my past nor my present, but rather who God knows I will be for eternity, seated with Christ at His throne and at His table. (Eph 2:6-7)

God has reconciled me to Himself, calling me to also seek reconciliation in all the relationships with everyone around me. (Eph 2:11-22)

I have been commissioned by God to share Christ with others, to minister in His power, and to tell others how they can be truly rich in Christ and have free access to God. (Eph 3:1-13)

God wants me to be strengthened with His power, filled with His Spirit, empowered to comprehend the incomprehensible love of Christ, and filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Eph 3:14-19)

Because of God’s infinite power, He can and will accomplish all these things and more to the praise of His glory! (Eph 3:20-21)

Another Mass Shooting

January 24, 2023

As we are still processing the tragic news of the Monterey Park shooting, we were rocked this morning with the news of another mass shooting by an older man which took place yesterday in California .  67-year old Zhao Chunli shot and killed seven people in Half Moon Bay, California.

I know this will probably spark more debate about the pros and cons of gun reform and the debate over whether or not federal and local governments are doing enough to provide psychological help and support to those in need.  But there is one important aspect of this shooting that no one in the media is talking about—demonic activity.

When we read the New Testament, particularly the Gospels, we see Jesus and the disciples rescuing people from demonization.  It’s easy to assume that demonization was common back then in that “less-sophisticated” culture, but rarely occurs today.  Yet demonization is just as prevalent today as it was back then; we just don’t readily recognize it.

So what can we do?

First, be aware of the spiritual battle around us. Scripture warns us that we are in a cosmic battle.  In fact, when you read the book of Revelation, it’s obvious that behind all the major wars throughout history, there is this underlying cosmic conflict between God and Satan.  This conflict will continue until the end of times.  But this conflict is not just limited to wars, it is also manifested in our everyday life.

So Peter warns us in 1 Peter 5:8-9,

8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

Note that the devil is not just trying to sniff you up, he is bent on snuffing you out!  He wants to devour you.  So he will use any means he can to trip you up or take you out.  This includes temptation, relational conflict, discouragement, etc.  In fact, just as a military general ascertains his enemy’s weakness and strategizes to exploit those weaknesses, so the Devil will do the same to you.

In light of his shrewd strategizing against us, we need to resist him, standing firm in our faith.  In
Ephesians 6, Paul talks about putting on the full armor of God that we can stand firm amidst the spiritual battle.  Be particularly aware of the fiery darts of the enemy which come in the form of lies which Satan and his demonic forces whisper into our minds.  In fact, I can’t help but believe that these mass shooters somehow opened the door to the Devil by buying into one of his lies—a lie which led to other lies, which ultimately ended in them being used as an instrument of Satan.  It is why we need to stand firm on the truth of God’s Word and hold up our shield of faith.

Finally, pray.  Pray for yourself, your family, and our church.  Pray also for this nation.  Apart from a spiritual awakening, we will continue down this path of destruction.  In light of our nation’s rich spiritual heritage, I am sure the enemy sadistically enjoys seeing America caught in this quagmire of violence, deceit, and unrighteousness.  He also wants to convince everyone that the solution is just to get the right political candidate or party into power who will bring salvation to America.  And so to his delight, the political polarization and useless bickering only increases. There is only One Savior who can help pull this nation out of this steep downward slope of demise.  And so we need to pray that Jesus will have mercy on us by causing His Spirit to sweep our nation with a spiritual awakening.

And so let us grieve for our nation—not as the media and others grieve, but grieve with open eyes and with a Biblical worldview which can point to the only true Hope of the world.  Let us grieve to the point that it brings us to our knees in prayer and confession.

Sobering State of Evangelicalism in America

January 11, 2023

Last year, Ligonier Ministries and Lifeway Research released the sobering results of a survey.  Not surprisingly, the percentage of Americans who believe that "the Bible, like all sacred writings, contains helpful accounts of ancient myths but is not literally true" continues to rise (53%).  However, what is sobering is that an increasing number of those who would identify themselves as evangelicals also agree with that statement (26%).  Some might legitimately argue that by their beliefs, these people indicate that they are not truly “evangelicals.”  However, by the fact that they identify themselves as “evangelicals” may indicate that they either attend or affiliate themselves with an evangelical church.

With the abandonment of a proper view of Scripture comes other false beliefs.  The following are other faulty beliefs which American evangelicals believe:

  1. Jesus is not the only way to God (56%).
  2. God created Jesus (73%).
  3. Jesus is not God (43%).
  4. The Holy Spirit is not a personal being (60%).
  5. Humans are not sinful by nature (57%).

If any of you who read this blog hold to any of these beliefs, I do not condemn you.  However, I would urge you to reach out and contact me or any of our leaders here at Hope.  We would love to dialogue with you about any of these issues.

For the rest of you, let me encourage you to be diligent in reading, absorbing, and applying the Word every day this new year.  The church in America faces a critical time where we need Christ-followers who know Biblical truth and can articulate that truth in their daily conversations with friends, neighbors, and family members.  It is not enough for us to think, “I’ll just let my pastor address these issues.”  Unfortunately, for many people, they feel too intimated by pastors to talk with them about their questions.  However, they would readily dialogue with a friend to have an open discussion about them.

As many of you know, we are encouraging everyone at Hope to either read through the New Testament or the entire Bible this year.  Obviously, we want you to do this in order for you to grow in your relationship with Jesus.  But we also want you to grow in your knowledge and conviction of the truth, as well as become better equipped to articulate that truth with others.  You have people all around you—even children and grandchildren—who hold to these faulty beliefs.  God is calling you to proactively reach out to them and discuss these critical issues with them.

As your pastor, I am committed to preaching Biblical truth every Sunday.  I know all our Hope leaders will do the same in our various small groups.  However, to turn the tide in this nation, we need a ground swell of people like you who know and live out the precious Word of God, and can share this truth with others.

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.  (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)

Wrestling for a Blessing

December 30, 2022

I’ve been reading in Genesis during my times with the Lord.  Chapter 32 contains a story that at one time perplexed me.

Previously, Jacob used deception to obtain his father’s first-born blessing, which he stole from his brother Esau.  Because Esau sought to kill Jacob out of revenge, Jacob fled to Paddan-aram where he meets his relative, Laban.  Laban is also a conniver.  So Laban and Jacob wrestle with each other, both using their fleshly wits to deceive each other to their own advantage.  But after 20 years, Jacob decides to return home.  However, as he gets close to his homeland, Jacob receives word that his brother Esau is coming out to meet him with 400 men.  Jacob, fearing for his life and the lives of his family, is distraught.  So he sends them ahead.  Here’s what the text tells us in Genesis 32:22-32:

22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”

“Jacob,” he answered.

28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”

But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.

30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”

31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. 32 Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon.

At first, this story puzzled me. How did this narrative pertain to the overall story? And what about Jacob’s insistence that this man whom he was wrestling bless him?  Was this another self-centered action by Jacob?  If so, why does the man seemingly view Jacob’s insistence as a positive act and therefore blesses him?

Up to this point in his life, Jacob used his fleshly wits and deception to successfully achieve his own desires and goals.  But now as he faces the ominous prospect of being confronted by his brother, he knows that there is a very high probability that Esau is coming for revenge.  Jacob is desperate and perhaps for the first time in his life, he knows he cannot connive his way out of this perilous situation.

So when Jacob meets this man, Jacob knows that he is more than just a man (see vv.29-30).  Jacob realizes that unless he receives divine help, he is in trouble.  However, he also believes that if this heavenly being blesses him, then he and his family can be delivered.  In other words, Jacob trusted that this heavenly being could bring him salvation.  What Jacob did not know, was this being was not just a heavenly being, but it was God Himself.  In fact, many believe that Jacob’s encounter was none other than a pre-incarnate visitation of Jesus Christ (see. v.30).  So Jacob’s insistence for a blessing was not an expression of self-centeredness, but rather a sincere, tenacious faith for salvation.  And for this reason, God in response, blessed him.  In essence, this was similar to Abraham’s response of faith, trusting in God’s promise.

But God’s blessing not only required faith, but it also required a breaking from self-reliance.  Perhaps that is why God dislocated Jacob’s hip.  God wanted to give Jacob a continual reminder that if he was going to experience the true blessings from God, it would not come as a result of his deceit, conniving, and fleshly planning, but rather it would only be achieved by grace through faith.

In the end, God did rescue Jacob from Esau.  And in the end, Jacob realized it was God who achieved his deliverance from Esau, not his own fleshly wits and efforts.  In fact, Jacob later exclaimed to Esau, “For to see your face is like seeing the face of God, now that you have received me favorably” (Genesis 33:10b).

And so it is with us.  We are also saved by grace through faith.  But in addition, we continue to experience God’s blessings by grace through steadfastly trusting in God and the promises of His Word.  But it also requires us turning from self-reliance in our brokenness and living by tenacious faith.

So as we begin a new year, ask yourself—“Who am I trusting to meet my needs?  Who am I trusting as I make plans for this year and beyond?  Am I trusting in myself or have I learned the lesson of brokenness—broken in my own self-reliance, but tenaciously steadfast in my trust in God’s grace and promises?” 

May you also wrestle with God by faith for His blessings this coming new year!

Hearing From God

September 22, 2022

One of the questions I am often asked is, “How can I hear from God?”

This past Sunday, I spoke on what it means to be filled with the Spirit.  If you could not be with us, I encourage you to listen to that message
on our website or watch it on our YouTube channel page.  It’s a crucial message in this series!  One of the passages we read was from Joel which Peter quoted on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the first believers.  Acts 2:16-18 says,
16 “… this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17 “‘In the last days, God says,
    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your young men will see visions,
    your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
    and they will prophesy.”

God promised that He would pour out His Spirit on all believers.  This is one of the great promises of the new covenant!  Whether it be men or women, young or old, parents or children—all who believe in Jesus Christ have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit!

But note also what Joel said regarding the results of the Spirit being poured out on all people—they would prophesy and have vision and dreams.  What do all these have in common?  They are all examples of God speaking and communicating through His Spirit.  So Joel (and now Peter) makes it a point that all believers will experience hearing God.

The ability to hear God speak is one of the great promises which comes as a result of being filled with the Spirit.  Sometimes He speaks as we read His Word and He brings insight into God’s truth.  Sometimes He speaks a word of warning as we are tempted to sin.  Other times He whispers words of encouragement and/or comfort in a still, small voice.  And then there are other times when He leads and guides us in a subtle, quiet thought that passes through our minds.  Bottomline, Scripture promises that we can all hear God speak!

However, we also need to balance our expectations with a word of caution.  In all cases we must carefully weigh out if it is the Spirit of God speaking.  1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 says,
19 “Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21 but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22 reject every kind of evil.”  One crucial way we test what we think might be the Spirit of God speaking is bringing it under the scrutiny of the Word of God.  God will never call us to do something that is against His Word.  In fact, one of the ways you can increase your reception in hearing God speak is to spend daily time in God’s Word.  Studying the Word of God is like learning the language of God.  The more you know and apply His Word, the more freedom the Spirit has to speak to you, knowing that you will not be deceived by other voices that also want to infiltrate your mind.

So as you are filled with the Spirit every day, be aware that God wants to speak to you.  Expect Him to speak.  Wait on Him.  Be sensitive to those quiet, subtle nudges.  And don’t be afraid to ask the Lord, “Is that You speaking to me through Your Spirit?”
PS- Years ago I did a 7-part series on hearing God.  We hope to have the audio for those messages on our  website soon.  I encourage you to listen to that series.

Forgiveness and the Two Hooks

September 15, 2022

A number of years ago, our son Justin was involved in a car accident with our car.  Because a car in front of him suddenly hit the brakes, Justin had to brake hard.  He would have avoided hitting the car, but a car behind him slammed into our car, causing our car to hit the one in front of Justin.  Thankfully, Justin was fine, but our little Toyota Corolla was totaled.  Because the insurance company of the owner of the car that rear-ended Justin was concerned for whiplash and/or back injuries, they were very anxious to settle with us quickly.  So they offered us a generous compensation for our totaled car.  After we were sure that Justin had no medical issues, we signed an agreement stating that the person whom they represented no longer owed us anything.

In essence, when we forgive someone, that is what we are doing—we are declaring to God and to ourselves that the person who offended us no longer owes us anything, i.e., we relieve them of their debt to us.  But what if the person who offended us offers no compensation nor any apology?

Two Sundays ago, Jim spoke about the much-needed topic of forgiving others (Thanks, Jim!).  He mentioned that we can be hesitant to forgive others because we think that by forgiving them, we are letting them off the hook without experiencing consequences.  In other words, we can be tempted to think that justice will not be served if we forgive them.

As I just mentioned, when we forgive our offenders, we relieve them of any debt they owe us; in essence, we take them off our hook.  However, even though they are off our hook, they are still on God’s hook.  In fact, look at what Romans 12:17-21 says:

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

When we forgive others, they are no longer accountable to us.  However, they are still accountable to God; they are still on His hook.  In fact, when we forgive others, we remove ourselves from the equation which then brings the person face-to-face with God Himself.  And God reassures us that His justice will be fulfilled.  Forgiveness frees the hand of God to deal directly with the person without our interference.  As a result, one of two things will happen: a) either the person who offended us will truly repent (and even come to Christ if he/she is not a believer), in which case they will sincerely apologize to us either in this life or the next, or b) the person will face the wrath of God and experience His judgement, if not in this life, at least in the life to come.  Needless to say, God says it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of God in His judgement (Hebrews 10:30-31).

On the other hand, when we refuse to forgive someone, not only can we stand in the way of God’s discipline towards our offender, but God will sometimes discipline us instead.  Jesus had some very strong words against believers who refuse to forgive others (e.g.-
Matthew 18:21-35).

So the next time you are hesitant to forgive someone because you fear they will get away with their offense without any consequences, be rest assured—they will not.  So take them off your hook and relieve them of their debt to you.  However, remember, they are still on God’s hook!
PS- One way to help you forgive and to ensure your forgiveness is sincere is to do what Paul says in vv.20-21—to actually do something good for the person.  Peter says the same thing in 1 Peter 3:9,
“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”  Even though doing good to those who have offended us is the last thing we want to do, yet there are numerous reasons to do so:  a) It’s really the acid test to know whether or not our forgiveness is genuine.  b) Secondly, it can help our hearts to follow our obedient actions; i.e., doing good to our enemies out of pure obedience to the Lord can help our hearts to truly forgive the person.  c) Scripture also tells that it will “pour heaping coals on his head.”  Doing good to those who hurt us can actually help bring conviction to that person. d) Finally, doing good also comes with a promise.  Peter reminds us that God Himself will bless us.

But I should mention one cautionary note—Doing good to those who have offended us does not mean we enable the person to continue his/her bad behavior.  I could say more, but that’s a topic for another blog and this one is already too long!

Inaugurated Eschatology

August 16, 2022

Last Sunday I mentioned that Paul wrote the letters to the Ephesians and Colossians around the same time period.  Therefore, there are many similarities between the letters.  For instance, we looked at Ephesians 4:20-24 which says:
20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (ESV)
Similarly, Colossians 3:9-10 says:
9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in owledge after the image of its creator. (ESV)

These verses are similar, but with one significant difference.  In Colossians the old self has already been taken off and the new self has already been put on.  In Ephesians, Paul commands the believers to put off the old self and put on the new self.  So why the difference?  And how does this relate to the question: Is Paul just teaching positive thinking in Ephesians (i.e., thinking positive thoughts about ourselves so that we would change)?

On Sunday I mentioned the theological concept of inaugurated eschatology, but we didn’t have time to explain it (many of you are probably so glad we didn't! 😊).  But it’s a significant concept to understand when talking about our growth in Christ.

So what is inaugurated eschatology?  “Eschatology” is the study of the last days.  “Inaugurated” means to begin or to introduce.  So the last days were introduced and begun by the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

In the Gospels Jesus talked about the Kingdom of God as something awaiting future fulfillment (e.g.- Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43; 25:1-46, Luke 19:11-27).  On the other hand, Jesus also talked about the Kingdom of God as a present reality (Luke 4:16-21, Matthew 12:28).  We can diagram it in this way.

When Jesus came to earth, He inaugurated or introduced the kingdom of God.  However, it will not be fully realized until Christ returns a second time to establish His millennial kingdom here on earth.  In the meantime, we live in this transitional age of the “already-but-not-yet” kingdom, i.e.—the kingdom of God which has already been inaugurated, but not yet fully consummated.

That is why in some places in the New Testament, theological truths seem to be stated as promises that have already been fulfilled, while in other the places those same promises seem to await a future fulfilling.1  We have seen this in some of the promises we read in Ephesians about being blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms and about us seated with Christ in the heavenlies.

So going back to our original question: Why the difference in Ephesians 4:20-24 and Colossians 3:9-10?  Colossians emphasizes “the already,” while Ephesians emphasizes the “not yet.”  Yet it is important to know that the only reason why we can put off the old self and put on the new self is that God has already declared it to be true of us.  This is what makes this vastly different from just positive thinking.  As I mentioned on Sunday, Christian growth is NOT becoming someone you are not yet, rather it is becoming the person you already are in Christ.  This is not just double talk!  Rather God has already declared that our new self is our true identity—it’s our true identity because in the fully realized kingdom of God, that is what we will be like for eternity.  God not only knows this, but He has already experienced us in this state!  So even though you are not yet perfect, because of Jesus Christ, you already have a new identity in Him!

Allow me to illustrate this in another way.  Imagine if God allowed you to enter a time machine and you were propelled into the future.  You are now living in your glorified state.  You are perfect in every way—perfect spiritually, physical, emotionally, mentally, etc.  You have one sole desire—to live for the glory of God and every thought and action are pleasing to Him.  But after a few years in this glorious, joyous state, you realize something—you realize that you never finished living your earthly life.  You realize that there was God-ordained work for you to do that you never finished.  You realize that there were lives to touch for Jesus Christ that you hadn’t touched—people whom God wanted to use you to reach with the life-transforming Gospel.  And so you talk to Jesus about it and He gives you permission to go back in time to finish out your earthly life.  So now you are back here in the present.  Do you think you would live any differently, knowing what it was like to be completely made new in your new self?

Similarly, God says to live in light of that new, true identity!  So take off the old self and put on the new self, because the new self is who you already are in Christ!
1 For instance, consider our salvation.  The majority of verses in the New Testament refer to salvation as something we have already received in the past when we placed our faith in Christ For instance, Ephesians 2:8-9 says,
8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”  Note that “saved” is in the past tense.  But 1 Peter 1:8-9 says, 8 "Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”  In these verses, salvation is something we are currently “obtaining” in the present (cf. 1 John 1:9).  Finally, Romans 13:11 says, 11 “Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.”  In this last verse, salvation is clearly something in the future.  So is salvation past, present, or future?  The answer is yes!  It is past, present, and future!  This is because our salvation is related to this theological concept of the “already-but-not-yet kingdom.”

The Voices of Two Women

August 10, 2022

This morning I was reading in Proverbs 9.  What struck me was the purposeful similarities of the voice of Wisdom and the voice of Folly.  Listen to them speak:

Proverbs 9:1-6: The voice of Wisdom

1 Wisdom has built her house;
    she has hewn her seven pillars.
2 She has slaughtered her beasts; she has mixed her wine;
    she has also set her table.
3 She has sent out her young women to call
    from the highest places in the town,
4 “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!”
    To him who lacks sense she says,
5 “Come, eat of my bread
    and drink of the wine I have mixed.
6 Leave your simple ways, and live,
    and walk in the way of insight.”

Proverbs 9:13-18: The voice of Folly (portrayed as a prostitute)
13 The woman Folly is loud;
    she is seductive and knows nothing.
14 She sits at the door of her house;
    she takes a seat on the highest places of the town,
15 calling to those who pass by,
    who are going straight on their way,
16 “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!”
    And to him who lacks sense she says,
17 “Stolen water is sweet,
    and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.”
18 But he does not know that the dead are there,
    that her guests are in the depths of Sheol.

Note the similarities: Both Wisdom and Folly are portrayed as women.  Both call from “the highest point of the city” (vv.3 & 14).  Both cry out, “Let all who are simple come to my house!” (vv.4 & 16).  Both speak “to those who have no sense” (vv.4 & 16).  Both promise a luscious banquet of food and drink (vv.5 & 17).

But then the results are in stark contrast: God’s wisdom leads to life, while folly leads to death.

So what can we learn from this?

In many ways, every human being is simple and in need of wisdom.  However, some will seek the wisdom which comes from God.  Others, either consciously or by default, will seek the folly that comes from the world and from our own flesh.

In addition, sometimes the call of God’s wisdom and the call of folly from the world (and from our flesh) may, on the surface, seem similar.  But their foundations and results are polar opposites.  We need God’s Spirit and His discernment to seek out the wisdom which truly comes from Him and not be fooled by the call of the world, the devil, and/or our own flesh.

Finally, both God and the world (and/or our flesh) seem to promise the same: a banquet of food and drink, i.e.—the fulfillment of joy and pleasure.  In one sense, both deliver.  However, God’s banquet leads to lasting joy and fulfillment—i.e., true life.  The world and our flesh only gives us temporary joy and pleasure and leads to ultimate death.

So what must we do?  Pray for God’s wisdom and His Spirit’s discernment, spend time in His Word listening to the true voice of Wisdom, and then, choose life!

The Highland Park Shooting

July 6, 2022

Lately it seems that every week the News reports on another mass shooting here in America.  It’s all too easy to become numb to these horrific tragedies.  But Monday was different.  The shooting in Highland Park was a sobering reminder that evil is not just something that occurs in other places in our country.  Evil is present in our own backyard.

This latest shooting will once again reignite the debate on issues such as gun control and government-sponsored programs for emotional and psychological support.  People on both sides of these issues will debate on the pros and cons of the merits and constitutional legality of various laws and programs.

But how should we view this tragedy Biblically?  Here are a few perspectives to keep in mind:

God is sovereign  What makes these shootings so unsettling is that they do not make sense and seem both tragically random and shockingly evil.  When people are killed in a car accident or in a natural disaster, we can make sense of the cause of these deaths.  Even when people are killed in a burglary, we can at least understand the circumstances of the injustice.  But mass shootings like the one in Highland Park don’t make sense.  So it can be easy to feel like life is just out of control.  But that is when we must remember that God is in control.  Psalm 115:2-3 says, “Why should the nations say, ‘Where is their God?’ Our God is in the heavens; he does all that He pleases.”  God is not absent or distracted.  God is in control of all things—even in control of evil.  He is not the source nor the cause of evil, but no evil can occur without first passing through the sovereign hand of God.

Demonic activity  Even people who are not Christ-followers have labeled these shootings as “pure evil”; and they are correct.  When we read the New Testament, we read accounts of Jesus and the apostles casting out demons.  Our tendency is to think that demonic activity only occurred in Bible days or that it is limited to certain third world countries.  But Satan and his demonic forces are just as active here in the U.S. as they were back in Bible days.  Therefore, to truly help people who could potentially commit these horrific shootings, we must address not just their emotional and psychological issues, but also the spiritual dimension of their lives.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is the only true hope for the world.

God’s discipline  Last Sunday I read Jeremiah 12:16-17 where God says of foreign nations, “And it shall come to pass, if they will diligently learn the ways of my people, to swear by my name, ‘As the Lord lives,’ even as they taught my people to swear by Baal, then they shall be built up in the midst of my people. But if any nation will not listen, then I will utterly pluck it up and destroy it, declares the Lord.”  I believe that God is allowing these tragedies in order to get our nation’s attention and to turn our hearts back to Him.  When you read the Old Testament prophets, their message to the foreign nations was similar to God’s message to Israel—to turn back to Yahweh.  God is calling this nation back to Himself.

What can we do?  It’s easy to feel helpless when we see these tragedies unfold.   But even though God is sovereign, it does not mean we are called to do nothing; just the opposite!  We who are Christ-followers are the ones who know the ultimate solution.  So we of all people must act!  But what can we do? 

  • First, we must pray.  We far underestimate the power of our prayers.  We may not want to admit this, but I think many of us can tend to think of prayer as the ministry of old ladies while the real work of ministry is accomplished by those who get things done.  But Jesus, the omnipotent Son of God, was a man of prayer.  If we are going to change the world as He did, we must pray.  One simple way is to join us for our Hope prayer times.  Whether that be before our Sunday morning worship service or once a month for our Evening of Worship & Prayer, join us!
  • Secondly, we must answer the call to share our faith.  As I just mentioned, the gospel of Jesus Christ is the hope of the world.  God tells us that we are Christ’s ambassadors, entrusted with the message of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  What if someone reached out to the individual who committed the Highland Park shooting?  What if they took the time to befriend him and share the gospel with him?  Friends, we are not helpless.  We have in our hearts the solution to the world’s problems--but will we boldly take the initiative to love people and to share that life-transforming truth?  Perhaps you are not sure where to begin.  Then join a Hope outreach cohort!  It’s far too easy to talk about the need to reach the unchurched than to be involved in doing it.  Let’s be doers of Christ’s commission and not just hearers only!

A Confession of Your Identity

June 21, 2022

This past Sunday we concluded our message series, “Discovering Our New Identity.”  As we wrapped up this series, we read aloud together a confession of that new identity which was based on Ephesians 1-3.  I want to encourage all of you to read this statement aloud daily for the next month during your time with the Lord.  Meditate on these truths.  And if there is a portion of this confession that particularly strikes you, take the time to read the related passage in Ephesians.  In addition, if you missed any of the messages in this series, I encourage you to either listen to the message on our website or watch a video of the worship service on our YouTube channel page.  At the end of this email, I included a chart that can help you determine which message you missed.

May these truths transform the way you view yourself!  Here’s the confession:

As a child of God, set apart for Christ, I have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ.  God cherishes me so much that He chose me before the foundation of the world and adopted me into His holy family.

I have been redeemed, forgiven from sin, and ransomed from the bondage of sin and death.  My worth is not determined by anything I have accomplished; rather my worth and significance is defined by what God has accomplished for me in Christ.  God treasures and values me so much that He was willing to pay the price of His own Son to purchase my redemption; that is what defines my worth. (1:7-10)

God views me as His inheritance—His chosen, treasured possession.  Therefore, God is working out all the details of my life according to His good and perfect will that I might be to the praise of His glory.  God has also sealed me with His Spirit, who has been given to me as a deposit, guaranteeing that I will receive the riches of His inheritance. (1:11-14)

God has created me to know Him, to fulfill His calling, to experience the riches of His glorious inheritance, and to live with His infinitely great power. (1:15-22)

I have been rescued from the bondage of the world, Satan, and my own flesh.  My salvation is a free gift of God’s grace through faith, not as a result of any good works of my own.  I am God’s wonderful workmanship, created to do good works, which God Himself will give me power to accomplish. (2:1-5)

God has raised me out of death into a new life in Jesus Christ.  Therefore, God views me as already seated with Christ in the heavenly realms.  My identity is not defined by my past nor my present, but rather who God knows I will be for eternity, seated with Christ at His throne and at His table. (2:6-10)

God has reconciled me to Himself, calling me to also seek reconciliation in all the relationships with everyone around me. (2:11-22)

I have been commissioned by God to share Christ with others, to minister in His power, and to tell others how they can be truly rich in Christ and have free access to God. (3:1-13)

God wants me to be strengthened with His power, filled with His Spirit, empowered to comprehend the incomprehensible love of Christ, and filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (3:14-19)

Because of God’s infinite power, He can and will accomplish all these things and more to the praise of His glory! (3:20-21)

4/24/22: Ephesians 1:1-6
5/1/2022: Ephesians 1:7-10
5/8/2022: Ephesians 1:11-14
5/15/2022: Ephesians 1:15-23
5/29/2022: Ephesians 2:11-22
6/5/2022: Ephesians 3:1-13
6/12/2022**: Ephesians 2:1-10
6/19/2022: Ephesians 3:14-21

The Incomparable Riches of God's Grace

June 16, 2022

What a wonderful outdoor worship & baptism service we had last Sunday!  I forgot to mention that all three children who were baptized took the initiative to ask their parents to be baptized, i.e., their parents did not ask them if they wanted to be baptized, rather it was a decision they made on their own initiative!  Granted, Brian Clements had taught them about baptism in their Sunday morning class (thanks, Brian!  You are doing a great job teaching our Hope kids!), but by the fact that they took the initiative on their own made the time even more special!

As part of my message last Sunday, we looked Ephesians 2:6 which says, “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.”

It’s an amazing thought to realize that God has seated us with Christ in the heavenly realms!  I encourage you to mediate on that truth and let it sink into the deepest recesses of your being!  Let it define you!  Remember, your identity will determine your actions.  What you think about yourself will determine how you act and what you do.

But a second encouraging truth is stated in v. 7:
“in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” 

As I pondered this verse, I wondered why and how God will continue to show us the incomparable riches of His grace in kindness in the ages to come when at that time, we will be perfect and will no longer sin.

Since we will no longer sin in the new heaven and new earth, we will no longer need a fresh experience of forgiveness in response to our confession of current sins. However, the continual experience of God’s kindness and goodness will cause our hearts to repeatedly well up in gratitude knowing that everything we are experiencing is undeserved.  Perhaps in those days, we will have a greater awareness of our state of depravity in which we wallowed before coming to Christ.  Paul already mentioned this in Ephesians 2:1-3.  In fact, pause and think for a moment—where would you be today if Christ had not rescued you?  I shudder as I think about that.  The only thing that separates us from a life of darkness and bondage versus a life of light and freedom is the incomparable grace of God.

But in addition, in the ages to come we will have an increasing knowledge and experience of the wondrous, infinite goodness and kindness of God.  Because of what we now know of the universe, we have an easier time imagining the infinite power and knowledge of God, even though our understanding is still so limited.  However, what is like for Jesus to be infinitely kind?  Are we just as awestruck by His infinite kindness and goodness as we are by His infinite power and knowledge?  In the ages to come, we will come to know with richer understanding the depths of the infinite kindness of Jesus.  It will once again, cause us to fall on our knees in worship of His unmerited favor which has allowed us to experience His boundless love and kindness.

But I also think that this verse reflects how overwhelming wonderful our experience will be in the new heaven and new earth.  As we approach each new vista of God’s re-creation and as we experience pure, overflowing joy in living our new glorious lives, we will not only be awed by the wonder and majesty of God and His re-creation, we will also be overwhelmed as we think about in the incomparable riches of God’s unmerited favor in freely giving us this undeserved gift of a new life in Christ.

In the meantime, while we are still on this earth, let us live by faith as we look forward to that time.  Let us allow our hearts to be filled with songs of adoration and praise as we thank God for the “incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” both in this life, and in the ages to come!